World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has opened up on how the threat of a 15-year jail sentence ultimately forged his boxing path.
Joshua, who holds four versions of the top division crown, was locked up for two weeks as a teenager on an alleged drug charge.
The Londoner, threatened with a long stretch that could see him incarcerated until his 30s, began working out to be ready for any prison bullies.
As he explained in a recent appearance on Apple’s Song for Life, the rest was history.
Ebro Darden, the host of the show, didn’t hold back in an honest exchange with Joshua.
Ebro: In 2009, you were in prison for two weeks.
Anthony Joshua: Yeah. Couple more weeks. Nothing, nothing major. Yeah.
Ebro: Nothing major?
Anthony Joshua: Nah, nah. I was just … I was on … So I’d been charged. It’s what we call being charged. So it’s what we call remand. So they’re holding you in a secure location.
Ebro: To figure out what you’re…
Anthony Joshua: Yes. So, obviously, you can’t have an influence on any of the case goings, and you can’t go and see certain people to make sure. So that’s just how it is.
Ebro: That time when you were in prison, it was two weeks. What do you remember from that moment?
Anthony Joshua: I feel like I was looking at 15 years. I thought I’d do that easy. I would have been out maybe two years ago. So I was like, “Cool. No problem. If it is guilty, it’s guilty.”
Anthony Joshua: Yeah. It’s just a mindset, isn’t it?
So my mindset was in a different place. I was just “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” type of mindset. And then I remember these little kids, not kids but people my age, that were hype.
There was one kid that’s at the back, just shouting. We’re just trying to chill. This is our time out of the cell. And then I looked back and he’s like, “What are you looking at?”
I said, “Who are you talking to?” I mean like, “Aye!” Also, because I didn’t have any of my stuff back then. So it’s like, basic.
So you start learning, like quickly start picking up. But when I got bailed, that’s when I started learning how to box and lift weights. Because I thought if I’m going to do a long sentence, and I’ve got these little idiot kids in the jail. I’m going to come in there. I’m going to be myself.
Ebro: Got to be ready.
Anthony Joshua: Yeah. So I started pumping weights, me and my cousin. He said, “Come over to mine,” and we bought one of these all-in-one weight machines.
Anthony Joshua: So we just put it in the living room. I would just be bench pressing. Listening to Papoose, 50 Cent Get Rich or Die Tryin. I didn’t have a clue. I just thought it was like bench-pressing press-ups. And he showed me shoulder press, delts. Do you know what I mean?
Then I say, “Yeah. Now. Now, I’m about my business.” Signed up to one of these hard man gyms. Because I was on a tag. Obviously, I’m out on bell conditions. So got the tag on my legs.
So I have to be home at eight o’clock every day. I was in a strict routine at a time when I was only 17, 18.
Anthony Joshua: And I think that’s what helped me with my boxing. That when I came off of tag, I was already in a position where I was ready to take off with boxing.
And I just had to, whatever work the devil had for me, I had to block out and stay focused on a righteous path. And that’s still a battle today, but I know how to manage it.
Within a few years, Joshua was a fully-fledged member of the Team GB Squad and heading to the Olympic Games in his home town.
A gold medal later, and AJ was the most sought-after young fighter on the planet in 2013. Turning pro with Eddie Hearn, Joshua has since become one of the most successful British heavyweights in the history of the sport.
Look out for more from Anthony Joshua on Songs For Life on WBN in the future.
Songs For Life aired on Apple Music and is available on demand at apple.co/_SongsForLife